Creative Ways to Stop Phone Calls (Give customers information) Without a Human having to answer the phone

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I work for a utility company (I'm a college student). Outages are part of life.

Whenever there is an outage, the phone rings off the hook. I kind of have set a goal to stop these phone calls so the office can be more productive.

My first idea wasn't accepted and it probably wasn't the best way to do this. I wanted to send out postcards to customers to get their cell phone number, then create an application in Twilio so we could easily text them to let them know their water is off. Then text them when it's back on.

Our current website is bush-league (consolidatedutilities.com). I'm rebuilding the site in WordPress, and right now I have a Bootstrap carousel that I'm going to integrate as a custom post type. The office can post alerts, I may create a shortcode that links to the posts page so they can use it during a hurricane.

So one thing I was thinking about doing is using an answering service - I've noticed my electric company tells me they are aware of the outage and that they are working on it. I don't talk to anyone but I know they are aware of the outage and they give me a time estimate.

I wanted to propose  maybe using an answering service that can be turned on to say 'we are aware of the outage' maybe point them to our website. I have no idea how to use an answering service. I don't know anything about those services, those answering services offices have.

Any suggestions to stop the calls would be appreciated. I really wish they would let us send out SMS, Twilio is pretty incredible what you can do with it.

I post a lot of really dumb vague questions on this site, but often times I get really good resonses. I think if I could stop the phone calls the office would appreciate it. Any ideas on how to do this, in a way that is mindful of the customer would be great.
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018

Commented:
I am in a city area with a big electric utility and they post clueless, worthless information about outages. No wonder the phone rings off the hook.

1. Have up to the 10  minute information on the phone message.
2. Set your website to provide up to the 10 minute information.

Do not try to stop calls. That is a waste of time because customers without electricity will call

Author

Commented:
Thank you for your answer, I agree with what you are saying.

I'm not sure if it is possible to get up to the 10 minute information. When there is a leak it is an emergency situation and I'm not sure if they would want the field to call.

I'm more interested in the technology. I don't know anything about it. The electric company could determine where I was and give me an estimate.

It may be simpler to have an answering service say "To report an outage press 1". And we can say "If you are calling about the outage that affects x area press 1" then we could say "We are aware of the outage (give information) if you would like to speak to someone press 1".

If someone knows about answering technology and can give me some information that would be great.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018

Commented:
It may be simpler to have an answering service say "To report an outage press 1


That is what I suggested above:   "Have up to the 10  minute information on the phone message."   Staff change the phone message every 10 to 15 minutes.

Internet technology requires a Map of outages, but I have not found that to be highly useful. It needs to be accompanied with information about the outage and when it will be restored.
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Author

Commented:
Thanks I will run it by them.
Technology Scientist
Commented:
PBX or VoIP PBX services allows you to have a menu and be able to change your greeting easily.

RingCentral, etc.

You could assign someone to be in charge of changing the initial greeting and messages of the phone menu:

Initial Greeting
- normal or no initial greeting(when no outages are present)
- emergency initial greeting "We are aware of the outage affecting some customers in X and Y"

Menu
You could include options like "If you are in an area affected by the known outage, press 1 for more info..." (and have a message only intake where the message prompt explains the outage updates, etc. -- be prepared for people calling back to 'talk to somebody' --- it might be even easier to make this live and add more staff to take 'lower level' calls for known outages)
"If you are affected by an outage in a different area, press 2" (live)

No matter what, you are going to have calls where people know there is an outage but want to talk to somebody. Some companies will have levels of support where they have people just for phone intake and then escalate the call when there is a higher priority needed (level 2 support) for example if an unknown outage needs to be prioritized. This might be helpful in your case.

Alerts
Concider a twitter feed for updates or outages that you could bind to your website's carousel or a spot for your feed to show through. This would eliminate the need for customer cell phones. I can only imagine how customers would hate getting texts when they aren't affected by the issue. Having a twitter feed allows the customer to see if the outage affecting them is known immedately or if they need to alert you.

Author

Commented:
Thanks

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